The promise of spring

When I was a kid, on the first warm day of spring, my dad would take us to the top of the nearest hill to find a dry spot where snow gave way to grass.

We would sit down and let the warm sun shine on our faces and my dad would say something like, “Such a beautiful day. Isn’t this marvelous?” Dad is the only person I know who uses the word “marvelous,” and it makes sense for a man who’s been accused of being optimistic, sometimes to a fault.

On his way to fix a fence, my dad never passed a raspberry bush without taking a detour for a taste. He’s never driven by a deer in the draw without slowing down to recognize it. And when I was a kid and he saw a feather from a turkey or a hawk on a ride through the hills, he always stopped, got off his horse and retrieved it for me.

As a kid, it was hard not to fall in love with the world when someone was walking in front of you pointing out all of the things there was to love about it. And that bluebird that followed my father while I was following him, well, it started following me, too.

As a ranch kid, though, you don’t get the benefit of being sheltered from some of the tough lessons of life. I remember saying silent little prayers to myself when my dad would bring a calf in from the cold, feed it and warm it in the basement, only to delay the inevitable, knowing that he could only do what he could do. The rest wasn’t up to us.

Last weekend, I sat on my horse and rode next to my dad as a grown woman chasing cattle on the ranch that raised us both. Last year at this time, my father lay in a hospital bed at the beginning of a five-month battle with pancreatitis that had him fighting for his life as we all lived in the long, heavy moments of uncertainty where there is nothing you can do but pray, even if you’re not the praying kind.

And while all I wanted was a big, extraordinary miracle to save my father’s life, I’ve never lived in my hope that way. I find my faith in the way the sun rises and sets every day, regardless of our joy or pain; in the snowflakes piling up on my doorstep and in the red on the tomatoes we planted in our garden, ready for picking with nothing but dirt, water and that trusty sun.

And I see it in the rosy cheeks of my daughters, the ones that came to us just as I was losing belief in miracles of any size, a true reminder that faith isn’t wishes granted or one big miracle that answers your prayers, but a million tiny, beautiful things that pile up like those snowflakes on the top of the hill outside our window in the winter — only to melt with the spring sunshine and remind us that, as my husband would say, “There’s more here than us.”

My dad’s recovery was proof of those small miracles — the kind hands of a nurse, my mother’s devotion, the capabilities of the doctor. I looked over at him as he sat on his horse in his wool cap and leather chaps, the cattle in front of us moving their way across the creek and toward the gate. He put his gloved hands together, he looked up at the sky, then he looked over at me and he hollered, “This is me. Thanking God!”

And it’s cold today. The snow is blowing sideways outside our windows. Winter is coming to test us. To freeze us. To make us question.

But faith? Faith is the promise of sunshine on that hilltop to melt that snow. Faith is remembering the marvelous promise of spring.

Jessie Veeder is a musician and writer living with her husband and daughters on a ranch near Watford City, N.D. She blogs at https://veederranch.com. Readers can reach her at jessieveeder@gmail.com.

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